Price’s future in serious jeopardy

Tom Price’s future in the Trump administration was in serious jeopardy on Friday, despite the Health and Human Services secretary’s last-ditch efforts to save his job, according to administration officials. One day after Price announced plans to refund taxpayers for a portion of the cost of his private jet travel, President Donald Trump is still fuming, annoyed by the parade of negative headlines documenting the secretary’s lavish spending. Story Continued Below The president increasingly believes that Price is becoming a distraction from his agenda, three officials said. Trump has complained that allegations the secretary is wasting taxpayer dollars tarnish the administration’s efforts to impose a conservative mindset on the federal government. Asked by reporters Friday whether he’ll fire Price, Trump said, "He's a fine man, we're going to make a decision tonight." Trump also said that Price has not offered to resign. “No, but we’ll see what happens later on,” he told reporters. Some White House officials were pessimistic about Price’s chances. "I don't know how he survives," said one senior White House official, who added it was uncertain whether Price would get fired on Friday. Asked how things looked for Price, another administration official said, “Not good.” Another person with direct knowledge of Trump's thinking said the president has asked others whether he should part ways with Price. Still, administration officials cautioned that Price’s fate is not set in stone, and they note Trump has not yet made any final decisions about firing him. Wary of the perception that the West Wing is in chaos, top administration officials are reluctant to unleash another staff shakeup. The president is displeased with Price and would like to get rid of him, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said, noting that the HHS secretary has few defenders in the White House. But the person said firing Price could be seen as a tacit acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and the president doesn’t like to give in to his critics. Already, rumors are swirling about who might replace Price. Possible candidates include Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin announced Friday that he hadn't taken charter jets since the start of the Trump administration. But the Washington Post later reported on Friday that he and his wife spent about half their time sightseeing on a July work-related trip to Europe. Price has spent more than $ 1 million in taxpayer money on travel since May, including overseas flights on military aircrafts and more than two dozen domestic trips on private planes, according to a series of POLITICO stories that have documented his flights. Trump has publicly rebuked Price and declined to reassure him that his job is safe. Both the HHS inspector general and the House Oversight Committee are investigating Price’s travel. Price announced Thursday that he would reimburse the federal government for the cost of his seat on the domestic flights, a figure that reportedly totals nearly $ 52,000 — just a fraction of the total cost of the trips. Other members of Trump’s Cabinet have also come under criticism for their use of military and private aircraft, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Tara Palmeri contributed to this report.
Utne Altwire: healthcare



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